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Series Preview: Mariners (18-27) vs. Astros (29-16)

The Astros are in town for a three-game set against the Mariners.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Things were already pretty bad so it’s hard to say they’re about to get worse, but the Mariners will go from a three-game series against the A’s that should have been a cakewalk to a weekend series against the Astros. This is the point in the season where it would be appropriate to remind you that the 2019 Washington Nationals were 19-31 on May 24. But even that kind of hopeful platitude rings hollow for Mariners. A single win in this series would feel like a victory at this point.

At a Glance

Astros Mariners
Astros Mariners
Game 1 Friday, May 27 | 6:40 pm
RHP Justin Verlander RHP Chris Flexen
60% 40%
Game 2 Saturday, May 28 | 7:10 pm
RHP José Urquidy RHP Logan Gilbert
48% 52%
Game 3 Sunday, May 29 | 1:10 pm
RHP Luis Garcia LHP Marco Gonzales
54% 46%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 113 (3rd in AL) 110 (5th in AL) Astros
Fielding (OAA) 14 (1st) 1 (9th) Astros
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 92 (5th) 123 (15th) Astros
Bullpen (FIP-) 85 (2nd) 106 (12th) Astros

Remember when the Mariners won two of three from the Astros during that joyous first homestand of the year? That feels like a lifetime ago now. Since that point, the Astros have gone 24-12 and have clearly broken out of whatever early season funk that caused them to lose 11 of their first 22 games of the season. Of course, the turning point for their season was a three game sweep of the Mariners in Houston that started an 11-game win streak for them and they haven’t looked back since.

Astros Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Jose Altuve 2B R 130 0.287 172 -1.6
Michael Brantley LF L 169 0.299 132 -0.8
Alex Bregman 3B R 183 0.240 130 -0.8
Yordan Alvarez DH L 163 0.229 164 -0.4
Yuli Gurriel 1B R 155 0.246 87 0.8
Kyle Tucker RF L 173 0.255 132 1.6
Jeremy Peña SS R 148 0.344 151 1.3
Chas McCormick CF R 127 0.262 103 -0.9
Martín Maldonado C R 114 0.145 32 -1.6

Despite having one of the best offenses in baseball per wRC+, the Astros have only scored 4.2 runs per game so far this season. Over their last 10, they’ve scored just 3.9 runs per game and that includes a 13-run outburst in Boston a couple of weeks ago. For whatever reason, they’re struggling to score runs consistently even though their stars are enjoying their typical fantastic production. If there was any concern over whether or not Jeremy Peña would be able to capably replace Carlos Correa at shortstop, those doubt have to be dashed by now. He’s already accumulated 2.1 fWAR, the best mark by a rookie this year by a wide margin, and has put up a 151 wRC+ alongside excellent defense at a key position. He certainly looks like another star in the making.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Justin Verlander

51 2/3 26.3% 4.8% 7.4% 38.9% 1.22 2.81
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 48.8% 94.7 2405 156 73 110
Changeup 1.2% 85.2 2006
Curveball 17.8% 78.2 2566 89 93 72
Slider 32.1% 87 2436 133 94 123

From a previous series preview:

At 39 years old, Justin Verlander is attempting to do something nearly unprecedented in major league history: successfully return from elbow surgery at an extremely advanced age. He made one start in 2020 before succumbing to Tommy John surgery; it was just the second major injury of his career and he became the second oldest starter to ever undergo the procedure. He had thrown more than 200 innings in every season of his career except two up to that point. During the offseason, the Astros signed him to a one-year, $25 million deal with a player option for 2023. The Astros clearly expect him to pick up right where he left off.

Justin Verlander is in the middle of a 19.1 scoreless innings streak — the last time he allowed a run was off a Eugenio Suárez two-run home run on May 4. He’s faced the Mariners twice now and has come away with a victory in both games.

RHP José Urquidy

40 1/3 17.1% 2.9% 11.3% 36.5% 4.24 4.33
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 52.8% 93.7 2220 127 84 93
Cutter 15.2% 87.1 2537 94 136 115
Changeup 17.8% 86.4 1985 98 92 162
Curveball 8.8% 77.1 2591 118
Slider 5.4% 79.7 2510

From a previous series preview:

José Urquidy has always shown a ton of promise with a solid four-pitch arsenal, but has struggled to put everything together in a full season. Injuries have certainly played a part in that, but he’s also failed to maximize all of his strengths to rack up strikeouts. During his debut season in 2019, both his curveball and slider ran whiff rates north of 40%. Neither pitch has reached those lofty levels since then and it’s a big reason why his strikeout rate hasn’t come close to matching the 24% he posted during that first season. He does possess phenomenal control, so even if he’s not K’ing batters, he’s still keeping them from taking free passes. That’s critical to his success because can also be pretty homer prone.

The Mariners tagged Urquidy for six runs in his second start of the season, easily his worst start of the year so far.

RHP Luis Garcia

42 2/3 25.4% 7.9% 11.9% 37.6% 3.38 4.19
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 51.0% 94.4 2384 123 67 81
Cutter 27.5% 85.6 2304 89 211 121
Changeup 8.7% 85.5 2050 120
Curveball 7.1% 79.1 2524
Slider 5.7% 80.6 2496

Luis Garcia burst onto the scene last year, throwing 155.1 fantastic innings for the Astros across 28 starts. That earned him second place in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. The surprising thing was that no one really expected this out of him. As a prospect, he graded out pretty poorly due to a deep, but unexceptional arsenal. He managed to outperform expectations because of a cutter that’s easily one of the best in the majors. It has one of the highest whiff rates in the majors for that pitch type, and it’s increased to over 50% this year. His windup is unique, introducing some natural deception and giving batters some timing issues.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 29-16 0.644 -- W-W-L-W-W
Angels 27-19 0.587 2.5 W-W-W-L-L
Rangers 20-23 0.465 8.0 L-L-L-W-W
Athletics 19-28 0.404 11.0 L-L-W-W-L
Mariners 18-27 0.400 11.0 L-L-W-L-L

The Angels split a short two-game series against the Rangers earlier this week and lost the first game of their big series against the Blue Jays yesterday. Texas started off a four-game set in Oakland with a win yesterday.

SB Nation has partnered with DraftKings to sponsor select series previews this season. Here are the betting odds for this series.

DraftKings Series Odds

Series Outcome Odds
Series Outcome Odds
Mariners win +150
Astros win -195